Vox Schlock: Science Writer Falsely Claims Sunday Was 'Longest Night in the History of the Earth'

December 22nd, 2014 10:46 AM

Amazon founder and current Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos must be quite relieved that he passed on investing millions in Ezra Klein's pet project.

Klein, the infamous founder and coordinator of the left-driven news-managing and manipulation effort known as JournoList, wanted the Post to invest $10 million in what the New York Times described early this year as "a new website dedicated to explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy." Klein, after instead finding a home at leftist online empire Vox Media, started up Vox.com, which has become an ongoing embarrassment of epic proportions. What follows is the latest example, tweeted by the founder himself (HT Twitchy):


The problem is that Sunday was not "the longest night in the history of the earth," and that Vox had to issue a correction to indicate that.

The fun was just starting.

Now get a load of the correction Vox inserted into Klein's original tweet:


But days haven't been "getting longer," at least not recently as the tweet's correction text implies. The full correction indicates that days have been getting ever so slightly shorter — and, apparently in a an attempt to partially save face, Vox blogger Joseph Stromberg snuck in a highly questionable global warming promo point not originally mentioned (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Correction: The article below said that, due to the rotation of the Earth gradually slowing down over time, this winter solstice would feature the longest night ever.

I got this wrong. The Earth's rotation is gradually slowing on an extremely long timescale, but on a shorter year-to-year basis, geologic factors can alter the speed as well.

Data indicates that the rotation speed has actually sped up slightly over the past forty years (likely due to melting of ice at the poles and the resulting redistribution of the Earth's mass), and before that, the trend was up-and-down for most of the 20th century — so, as far as we know, the longest night in Earth's history likely occurred in 1912. I apologize for the error. Thanks to Steve Allen and Ryan Hardy for pointing it out.

We're not done. Here is some precious head-scratching text from Stromberg's original writeup:

... the rotation of the Earth is slowing over time. Every year, scientists estimate, the length of a day increases by about 15 to 25 millionths of a second.

It may be a truly tiny amount (and it means that even in your entire lifetime, the length of a day will only expand by about two milliseconds), but it forces official timekeepers to add a leap second every few years.

The impact noted would have to be far more than 15-25 millionths of a second. Simple math (simple everywhere except at Vox and in a Common Core curriculum classroom) show that by itself, a leap second would only be necessary once every 40,000 - 66,667 years (1,000,000 divided by 25 and 15, respectively). There's obviously another reason why 25 leap seconds have been added in the past 42 years. One may be that Vox probably should have referred to milliseconds instead of millionths of a second.

The entire subject is so trivial that one has to wonder why Vox devoted even a millionth of a second to considering running such a piece, even if accurately. There's no way to know without asking for Vox Media to open its books (good luck with that), but it wouldn't surprise me if Vox.com is in reality a bloated, overstaffed money pit burning through cash at a frightening rate, with a lot of supposedly smart people (just ask them) desperately fishing around for things to do.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.